(RepublicanNews.org) – The A-10 Warthog is on the defense budget chopping block along with almost half of an elite Air Force special operations group. While the process to retire the plane has been underway for years, the plan to scrap almost 1,600 troops from Tactical Air Control Party forces is a new development. The number of TACP operators within the service will drop 44 percent to a strength of about 2,130 members.
TACP units work in tandem with the A-10, scouting targets on the ground and relaying their coordinates to pilots above. A spokesperson for the Air Force said the service has “no plans” to transition TACP forces to other units, citing an overall “manning reduction.”
Though first delivered to the Air Force in 1975, the ‘warthog’ did not see combat until the first Gulf War, where the plane earned a reputation for its armor and 30-mm cannon. Pilots reported being able to stay aloft, engage in combat and return to base despite entire chunks of fuselage having been shot away. The plane’s cannon penetrated Iraqi tank armor to devastating effect and troops gave it the nickname of ‘the tank buster.’
The War on Terror saw its subsequent use in Afghanistan and Iraq, where it was also a favorite of ground troops in need of close air support. With those wars ending, the Pentagon has shifted focus to China and Russia.
Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown says that while the A-10 is “a great airplane” on an “uncontested” battlefield, the United States is entering a “more contested” arena. According to Brown, the ‘warthog’ will be phased out over the next 6 years and replaced by the F-35A Lightning II.
Troops-in-Contact, a veteran advocacy group opposed to A-10 retirement, said in a statement that retiring the plane will cost lives. Air support will be “less effective” and provided by “amateurs in a small, expensive fleet of fragile aircraft.”
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